26 Oct
  • By James Evans

Money spend on wars vs peace

Why do we continue to spend such huge amounts of money on wars and violence compared to how much we spend on peace and peaceful initiatives? The recent Global Peace Index report for 2017 from the Institute for Economics and Peace has once again displayed just how large are spending on war and containing violence is rather than on building peace.

The report finds that in 2016 around 14.3 trillion (not billion) had been spent globally, either directly on or around war. It is a frankly staggering amount of money. Meanwhile, the amount of money spent on peacekeepers (usually the UN) is, in 2015 anyway, 8.27 billion. That is less than 1 percent the amount spent on war annually. Similarly, global peacebuilding initiatives cost the world 6.8 billion in 2015, once again less than 1% of the 14.3 trillion spent on war.

The US alone spent over 966 billion on defence in 2015 alone. According to the Centre for Strategic and International studies the US will have spent about 2 trillion in active conflict zones since 2001.

Peacekeepers serving the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) participate in United Nations International Day of Peace celebration. 21/Sep/2008. UN Photo/Martine Perret. www.unmultimedia.org/photo/

(UN peacekeepers cost less than 1% of what the war costs the world annually)

These huge numbers are hard to comprehend, hard to quantify. However, if we consider how much the cost of some other things are we can gain a little perspective. The UN estimate it would cost 30 billion a year to end world hunger forever, now think about how much the US alone spent in 2015 on defence (966 billion). 30 billion would be a mere 3% of what America spends on defence alone! Imagine if some other countries helped. We could actually end hunger for everyone, forever. We have the money, skills and resources, sadly we seem to lack the will.

For another example, we can take a look at education. To provide basic education to the world’s poorest 46 countries it would cost an estimated 54 billion. Once again this is a tiny fracture of what wars cost the world every single year. The thing is education is a proven money maker, the white house itself came up with the statistic that for every dollar spent on a child in early childhood education, society gains $8.60. Not only that education has immense health and societal benefits for all.


(The Real Cost Of Our Wars)

What we are currently doing just doesn’t work, how can we achieve peace if only 1% of what wars costs is spent on peacebuilding initiatives.  Peacekeeping operations are aimed at responding to a war or violent outbreak, while peacebuilding expenditures are aimed at developing and maintaining the capacities for resilience to conflict. Building peace is what stops places relapsing into conflict, yet we spend so little on it

The really sad thing is that we have not even touched on the actual human cost of war. Currently, the world is facing the highest level of refugees in the world since World War 2. Since 2007 there has been a 408% increase in people killed in battle. Deaths in the Syrian conflict alone range from 330,000 to nearly 500,000. How can we put a price on the pain and suffering of the countless people whose lives are destroyed by wars?

So why do we continue like this? Why can we not change this and force the governments we apparently elect to actually solve these issues, rather than spending more and more on violence which only serves to make them worse?


(The number of refugees displaced by violent conflicts is the highest its been since WW2)



“Here’s how education and military spending compare” Business Insider, 2016. http://www.businessinsider.com/education-military-spending-comparison-2016-9?IR=T

“U.S. Military Spending: The Cost of Wars” 2017, Anthony Cordesman, Centre for Strategic & International Studies. https://www.csis.org/analysis/us-military-spending-cost-wars

“Building Positive Peace is the Key to Sustaining Peace” Vision of Humanity, 2017. http://visionofhumanity.org/global-peace-index/building-positive-peace/

“Global Peace Index Report 2017” Institute for Economics and Peace. http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2017/06/GPI17-Report.pdf

“UN says solving food crisis could cost $30 billion” The New York Times, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/news/04iht-04food.13446176.html